Episode 56: with Taras Kuzio discussing the risk of Russo-Ukrainian geopolitical tensions, diplomatic misunderstandings, and Nord Stream 2

Russo-Ukrainian geopolitical tensions have been monopolizing news headlines as reports point to an imminent invasion reminiscent of the 2014 occupation of Crimea. However, there’s a lot more than what originally meets the eye, in terms of the economic, risk, ideological and diplomatic implications of recent developments. To untangle the complexities of the situation, we are joined by Taras Kuzio, who is an Associate Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and Professor in the Department of Political Science at the National University of Kyiv Mohlya Academy. He is a prolific author having published over 22 books and 130 scholarly articles, including “Putin’s War Against Ukraine: Revolution, Nationalism, and Crime” and his most recent publication “Russian Nationalism and the Russian-Ukrainian War”. He has made numerous media appearances due to his expertise on Eastern European affairs.

You can listen to the podcast here:

You can also listen to Episode 58 of The International Risk Podcast with Dominic Bowen who recently returned from eastern Ukraine where he was working with local and international stakeholders to understand the risks in Ukraine.

The International Risk Podcast Interview Transcript with Taras Kuzio

Dominic Bowen – 2:08
Hi, I’m Dominic and I’m the host of the International Risk Podcast. Today we are joined by Taras Kuzio who is a British academic and expert on Ukrainian political, economic and security affairs, who is a prolific award winning author. One of his most recent publications, Putin’s war against Ukraine focuses on how Russian national identity is correlated with its refusal to acknowledge Ukraine sovereignty. Taras is an Associate Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, and an adjunct professor at the National University of Kiev. With ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, today’s conversation with terrorists is particularly timely and important when we consider the international risk landscape. Welcome to the podcast today Taras.

Taras Kuzio – 2:56

Thank you.

Dominic Bowen – 2:58

Ukraine is saying that Russia has sent tanks, artillery and snipers to the front and to rebel held areas in the east of the country. We also know that a variety of countries and their intelligence services are saying that between 100,000 and 175,000 Russian troops could be involved in building up in the area. And we’re also seeing corporate intelligence groups tracking the amount of unarmed aerial vehicles operating in the area, and the impact on independent observers in the area. Now, you predicted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine back in 2010, which is quite impressive. I’ve spoken with previous guests about the difficulty even for the best analysts and the best political commentators to be able to predict how things are going to unfold. What’s the difference this time around? And perhaps even more importantly, what are your assessments of Russia’s strategic behavior in 2022?

Taras Kuzio – 3:51

Well, we have to acknowledge a few things. Firstly, for Russians and for Russian nationalists, the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which is where the war has been going on for eight years doesn’t have the same sentimentality as Crimea. So when Putin sent troops to invade and occupy Crimea in the spring of 2014, he received a big boost in his popularity and Russian support for the continued annexation occupation of Crimea has remained steady in the last eight years. It’s about 84% or 86%. There are even some opposition leaders like Alexander Navalny, who also support the annexation occupation. The Crimea and Sevastopol have a very deep meaning for Russians, which is not the case for the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. So I think Putin would find it far more difficult to invade and annex the Donbass unlike Crimea. In the last eight years, what the official Russian line has been is that we’re not involved in the war. This is a civil war between Ukrainian and Russian speakers. Now, anybody who knows that area, anybody who’s been there, and I’ve been to the frontline five times anybody with intelligence services, West, NATO will tell you that’s a load of baloney. Russia has created a separatist army in that region of 35,000 heavily armed troops. These weapons don’t just appear from nowhere. And that’s a sizable army which is bigger than about half of NATO’s 30 members. There’s no way that this could have been created just by local people. This was created by Russian control and Russian interference. And the predictions are that something like between 5,000 to 10,000 Russian military and intelligence officers run this military force. And that’s the reason why Russia wants to keep controlling the border, because that’s the way he gets its stuff inside. Just a few weeks ago, there was an example of Murphy’s Law because a Russian court in the city of Rostov, which is just not very far from the Ukrainian border sentence, a man to jail for corruption, and that man was involved in procuring and sending food supplies to troops in the Ukrainian occupied region. In the court documents by mistake they put down every two weeks he was organizing deliveries of huge tonnage of food to Russian soldiers on active duty in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Now, that is really Murphy’s Law. Of course, it was quickly deleted, but there are many geeks out there who were able to pull those documents down before they were deleted. Going back to the question of why now, I’m not exaggerating when I say that Vladimir Putin is obsessed with Ukraine. And the reasons for this were outlined back in 2017, in my book, now is funny how Western opinion has evolved over time because back in 2017, my view that Russian nationalism and Russian national identity was at the core of the war was a minority view. And now it’s practically a majority view. It’s nothing to do with NATO enlargement. It’s down to the question that for Vladimir Putin and similar Russian nationalists, Ukraine is a Russian land and Ukrainians are one of three branches of the Russian people, Russians, the Russians and Ukrainians. What this signifies –and this is why it’s dangerous– is that this Russian nationalism has massively regressed and stagnated under Putin. The Russian attitudes to Ukrainians are now far worse than they were even in the Soviet Union. And I’m no fan of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, the official position of the Soviet government was that Ukraine’s and Russians are different but very close. Now, the official position of the Russian government is there are no Ukrainians. They’re just Russians who haven’t quite realized it yet. Kiev is a so called Mother of Russian cities, as Putin describes it. Putin penned this 6000 word article in July of last year, where he outlined all these things that got a lot of people’s attention in the West, and that’s from then where people in the West began to change their attitudes to my viewpoint that this is a national identity question. On top of all this, the Russian leaders ever since the USSR disintegrated three decades ago, have always said that this territory of the former Soviet Union minus the three Baltic states, so what the Russians called Eurasia is Russia’s exclusive sphere of influence and we demand the West recognize that by exclusive sphere of influence, that means no UN peacekeepers, no EU, no NATO, and that these countries around Russia have limited sovereignty. They’re not real countries in the eyes of the Russians. The European Union has an office that deals with monitoring Russian disinformation. Just today they published a report that Ukraine is the subject that is most commonly focused on Russian disinformation and on Russian TV.

Dominic Bowen – 8:37
It’s a really valid point, Taras. I mean, in that paper that you mentioned, that was published in July where Putin expresses his views on Ukraine, and he accuses Western states of trying to move Ukraine towards not just away from Russia, but actually to an anti Russian posture. And I think Putin also emphasized the interwoven nature of the two countries economies and indicated that Ukraine’s sovereignty ultimately depends on Russia’s goodwill, which is a very, very big statement. It really seems to me that tensions in and around Ukraine really replicate the classic security dilemma and anyone that studied international relations and international politics would have come across this about the trust and that credible commitments and mutual assurances when trying to avoid war. But noting this massive Russian nationalism and the comments that Ukraine really is part of Russia, the Ukrainians just don’t realize it yet. How can we be pursuing genuine and realistic conflict resolution?

Taras Kuzio – 9:30
Look, what he really really wants is a second Yalta agreement. So in 1945, the big powers you know, France, Britain, America, Russia sat down and they divided up the world or they divided Europe at least. He wants to sit down not with Europe because he doesn’t even respect Europe. He thinks Europe’s a joke. If you don’t have divisions, if you don’t have an army, I’m not dealing with you seriously. The only country that Putin wants to deal with is the US. In Russian eyes, the US controls NATO. There’s no point in talking to NATO. There’s no point in talking to the EU because they have no military, we’re going to talk directly to the Americans. And we’re going to just divide Eastern Europe and the former USSR. Of course, the reaction of anybody in the West is to say, a this is not the 19th century, this is not the Cold War anymore. We don’t do these things anymore. I’m not sure what Biden wants to be diplomatic. And he will say, Yeah, we’re going to sit down with the Russians and talk, but what can you actually talk about? Because what Putin is demanding is simply impossible for the Americans to deliver. So for example, if putting was to say to make an agreement with the Americans that yeah, the Americans say, Okay, you take Ukraine, do you think Ukraine zone and say, okay, yeah, great. The days are gone, when big powers can decide the fortunes of smaller countries. So I’m not even sure what the West can do to respond, especially as some of the demands basically mean rolling back NATO enlargement to what it was prior to the late 1990s. This isn’t just a question for Ukraine. It’s a question for all of these post communist states, especially the Baltic states. I think the West here is in a dilemma, but Putin is using this military blackmail of these troops on the border to try to get this kind of new Yalta Agreement. I don’t think it’s going to work. But going back to the troop levels, the thing which is infuriating with Western reporting, is that they don’t actually investigate the number of troops, even if it’s 175,000, which is what the Americans are saying it will be by January –that’s not enough to invade Ukraine. Military analysts and experts say an invading force needs to be three times bigger the defending force, Ukraine has the third largest army in Europe, so about 260,000 to 270,000. That would require Russia to have on the border for a full invasion. So call it 70,000. That’s practically three quarters of Russians army, he would have to withdraw troops from Central Asia Chinese border, the caucuses. The only reason I think that Putin has those troops there is for two reasons, firstly, to try to get the West scared to exert pressure on the west to go for this kind of Yalta Agreement. But secondly, what putting would very much like to do is to repeat what they did in Georgia in 2008, where they provoked the Georgians so much, that they eventually sent their troops into those frozen conflict areas, and then the Russians invaded and they began to pulverize the Georgian forces. That’s a scenario that Russia would like because then Russia can blame the Ukrainian but the idea that Russia would just itself invade, I think is a bit far fetched.

Dominic Bowen – 12:34
Many people hope that you’re correct on that point, but you said that Russia is trying to blackmail the West and also that Russia considers NATO really just a US led organization. In the same vein, Russia really must surely be seen as Europe’s petrol station, with Russia supplying more than a third of Europe’s gas supplies for the existing Nord Stream pipelines. People are accusing Russia of using this as blackmail in order to pressure the operationalization of Nord Stream 2 which again, Germany is currently holding up for what could be seen as retaliation for Belarus holding back energy supplies to Ukraine. Considering the US is currently threatening to impose more sweeping sanctions that could actually curtail investment and production in the energy sector, what actions realistically, can we expect to see knowing that any US sanctions against Russia or any US actions against Russian energy providers is going to hurt the European allies that America depends on?

Taras Kuzio – 13:26
What’s funny about Western media is that they don’t focus on things when liberal-led countries do them. But when right wing governments do them, like Donald Trump, they do. So what am I mean by that? When Donald Trump was in power, he was always accused of doing steps that undermined transatlantic cooperation and relations. Maybe he was, but at the same time, the Germans with Nord Stream is did the same thing. They unilaterally went ahead with this project without consulting any of their allies. This is German unilateralism, this is German nationalism. And this does allow for Russia to have a stranglehold on gas supplies to Europe and to Germany. And of course, you’re right that as soon as gas transit is diverted from Ukraine to Nord Stream 2 that gives a window of opportunity to put in to potentially cause trouble in Ukraine was one of the things that holding putting back from doing that in Ukraine is that Russian gas is transiting across Ukraine. I think this is a major issue and one wonders for would put in be so stupid and irrational to invade Ukraine and then have the Nord Stream 2 project derailed. I think what Putin would prefer would be this kind of provocation scenario where he can blame the Ukrainians

Dominic Bowen – 14:46
That would certainly make his hands a lot easier to play if we look at the Ukraine side of things. And fortunately, most of the listeners of the International Risk Podcast are quite senior, they’re board members, directors, leaders in businesses and government actors, but not everyone is as well informed about the importance of Ukraine. So if we look at the Ukraine side of the equation, how far do you think the West is actually willing to go for Ukraine? We’ve seen whether it was Obama’s red line in Syria that if chemical weapons were used, America will intervene, and they didn’t. And there’s a lot of other instances where perhaps American allies and other allies of the West have put their hand up seeking support, and it hasn’t been as forthcoming as different actors would hope for. What strategic interests does the West have in Eastern Europe, that can actually prompt substantial intervention?

Taras Kuzio – 15:32
The major difference between Ukraine and Georgia is that Georgia is in the wrong geographic place. But Ukraine borders six EU and NATO members and therefore the idea that somehow a major Russian Ukrainian war on the territory of Ukraine could be contained within Ukraine, is fantasy. Inevitably it will have a spillover effect into NATO and EU members. Ukrainian opinion polls talk about something like 15% of Ukrainian saying that they will flee the conflict westwards. Think of the crisis on the Russian border, and then times it by 10 or 20. Ukrainians will not put their hands up in the air, they will fight. We are potentially returning to a scenario of Afghanistan in the 1980s. In the center of Europe, the Washington Post has already published information that the Americans or NATO or Americans and British would, in the event of a war inside Ukraine, begin supplying the Ukraine with military equipment. We are literally talking about like what the Americans did to the Afghan mujahideen fighting Soviet forces in the 1980s. American and British cyber experts are already working in Ukraine, the British government has talked about having created a force of 600 Special Forces and paratroopers to be sent to Ukraine in the event of the war, certainly some countries in NATO would be more hawkish than others. Poland, for example, Lithuania is quite hawkish on this. And inevitably, as well, if something like that happened, the West would move from supplying just defensive to moving to supply offensive weapons. Russia wouldn’t want that because Russia, in a war with NATO, will be defeated. But Russia prefers these different elements of hybrid warfare, where it can denied it’s involved. But I think that there are already in London, Washington planning going on for this type of scenario. I mean, Ukraine has some good Western weapons already. Turkish drones, American weapons, Ukraine, inherited from the Soviet Union, and massive military industrial complex, Ukraine had a factory that produced the largest nuclear weapons in the world. This is very potentially dangerous if the Russians move in.

Dominic Bowen – 17:38

You mentioned hawkish Lithuania just then, and of course, you mentioned if we did see more realistic signs of Russian activity or high likelihood of invasion, there’d be warning signs. But do you think that the high likelihood of Russian defeat was to spill into NATO members is enough to reassure smaller EU members and NATO members like Lithuania?

Taras Kuzio – 17:55
Well, no, no, of course, the Baltic states have a lot of memory, of course, I mean, they remember 1939. They remember the Molotov-Ribentrop pact, they remember how they were eaten up. Putin’s demand for a second Yalta is anathema to any of the post communist states. Because in that first geometry of 1945, all those countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states were all given by Churchill and Roosevelt, the Soviet Union, they are as opposed to a secondary Yalta, as is Ukraine. They are concerned, especially in small countries, of course, I don’t think that any serious NATO military planner is going to be thinking, oh, a war in Ukraine can be contained in Ukraine. If there was a war inside Ukraine, the Baltic states, Poland, in particular, Romania, who are the probably the most hawkish of that region, would be clamoring for NATO to send the military reinforcements.

Dominic Bowen – 18:46
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes I get my schedules unexpectedly filled with crisis response and supporting clients that are held up with unexpected crisis. But one of the things I try to spend most of my time doing is working with clients and partners on building their risk resilience and building their risk monitoring frameworks. And I think risk monitoring frameworks are so often overlooked. And this could be currency fluctuations. It could be weather patterns, it could be supply chain disruptions, a whole range of things. But around the topic that we’re talking today, there’s certainly some key risk indicators. And you mentioned a very clear one before, if we saw 175,000 Russian troops on the border, that would be a clear risk indicator, but you’ve previously worked with governments and businesses and given some tremendous advice to different actors, what are some of the risk indicators that you think we should be monitoring today?

Taras Kuzio – 19:29
I think that at the moment that Russia is bluffing. I don’t think that Russia has the sizable amount of forces and intention to go in and shall we say, occupy a good chunk of Ukraine. Ukraine is not Moldova or Georgia, which are very small countries. We have to also bear in mind it’s one thing invading a country, other thing occupying a country. Americans and the Soviets and the British learned that lesson from Afghanistan. Ukraine has the third largest army in Europe. It has 9000 reservists, so that gives it over a million central troops. It also has 430,000 veterans who have fought in the war in eastern Ukraine, you can guarantee without any question that there would be a massive partisan guerrilla warfare which certain Western countries in NATO would be supporting. I think that from a risk point of view that we have to get our heads around what kind of country that Russia is. Putin is a very angry leader, because he knows that Russia of the BRIC countries is a declining power. They have this inferiority complex that they always want to be seen to have a joint summit with the United States, like it wasn’t the good old days when the Soviet Union existed. I think we have to bear in mind that they won’t stick to agreements and I don’t think that the West will be able to strike any deals or NATO to sign up to an anyway. The idea that somehow the Americans can agree something with the Russians, and then tell everybody else in NATO to go by that it’s simply not going to happen. One of the major risk aspects of this is that the Russians leaders live in a world which has little to do with reality. And there’s two ways of seeing this. Firstly, they are absolutely convinced that in the 2014 Euromaidan revolution came to power, they brought fascists to power and they continue to rule Ukraine on behalf of the US and against the wishes of the majority of these Ukrainians who want to be with Mother Russia so that if Russia invades most Ukraine’s will be going ‘thank you’. And it’s rather ridiculous to even think this when, for the last two years, the President of Ukraine Jewish Ukrainian, the Kremlin is saying that Ukraine’s a fascist country run by a Jewish Ukrainian president and Volodymyr Zelensky, came to power in April 2019, with a strong wish to sign some kind of peace agreement with Russia. And he’s failed, because the only agreement that Russia will ever sign is one way Ukraine’s holding both hands in the air. Again, it’s not possible for any Ukrainian leader to deliver that, because he’d be another revolution in Ukraine.

Dominic Bowen – 21:59
That’s very interesting. And I think they’re very valid points. And you seem relatively confident that Russia will not invade and occupy Ukraine, but you do, justifiably I think, clearly have some concerns about the ability to secure effective agreements with Russia, and concerns about the realism of Russian leaders. So considering the current tensions in the region, and the significant uncertainty, how should European companies and European governments that are doing business with Russia be adapting to this uncertainty and the potential risks?

Taras Kuzio – 22:30
I think you’re going a bit above my paygrade here. But I think that if you have a country like Russia, which especially in the last two years since the Constitution was changed in July of 2000, allowing Putin to basically be president for life, there’s been far greater repression of the opposition. Western human rights organizations now basically define Russia as a dictatorship, it’s gone even worse than it was before as a kind of authoritarian state. If that’s the case, there is no rule of law in Russia. If there’s no rule of law inside Russia, that means Russia as a foreign actor also does not respect the rule of law. So Russia will not respect international agreements, treaties and such like. One of the ironies of Russia now demanding security guarantees from NATO, and the US is that Russia guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity and security in 1994, in the Budapest Memorandum, along with Britain and the United States in return for Ukraine, giving up the world’s third largest nuclear weapons, so Russia tore that agreement up in 2014. And now Russia is demanding guarantees from the West. I think if you’re going to invest in Russia, if you’re going to go in that direction, then you have to be very wary that this is a country without the rule of law. If you’re a big actor, like a big oil or gas company, then you can probably get by, because you can contact the ambassador and they could be on your side. But if you’re a smaller entity, smaller investor, I think you’ve got major potential problems. And particularly, if you try to help Russia break sanctions, as there have been cases of German companies breaking sanctions on Crimea, for example, and then getting penalized for that. I don’t believe that Russia at current is poised to do this massive kind of full scale invasion. But at the same time, I do believe that as long as Putin is in power and is in power for life, there’s no honor amongst thieves. So Putin cannot leave office. If he leaves office, he’ll either be sent to jail or be killed, and his money that he’s stolen will be stolen by somebody else. So he’s got to stay in power forever. That means that the West is going to have the kind of crisis we’ve got now the West is going to have those crisis for many, many times on many, many occasions throughout the next 15 years.

Dominic Bowen – 24:38
I really enjoy your writing, Taras. So I asked this question from a very selfish point of view, but your soon to be published book on Russian nationalism, if you’re willing to share a sneak peek, what are some of the key points our listeners might be most interested in?

Taras Kuzio – 24:53
Well, it’s the nature of how Putin has been in power for over 20 years, and there’s been an evolution in the way Putin has evolved, there have been two what political scientists will call critical junctures. The first one was in 2004, with the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. And you saw how from 2005 onwards Putin began to change and began to become more radicalized. If any of your listeners want to focus on this, just find on the internet Putin February 2007 speech to the Munich Security Conference. Putin basically declares war. You have to understand in the mindset of people in Moscow, it’s not Russia that’s fighting the West, Russia is defending itself against Western aggression. Of course, the West doesn’t seem like that. During this whole period, we’ve had practically every US president, trying to do a reset, and every time it’s failed, and the reason it fails every time is very simple, because Russians understand the reset as you reset. We have done nothing wrong. A reset can only happen properly. If both sides say yeah, we both messed up let’s just kissing dad again. But no Russian say we did nothing wrong were the innocent party. You guys are the ones causing trouble the time you know, Iraq crane this out and the other. So the first critical junction 2004. And then you had various things happen. 2005, 2006, 2007 first Russian cyber attack happened against NATO member actually against Estonia 2007. 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, Putin then becomes prime minister and during this time as prime minister, that’s where he begins to read and particularly read emigre Russian nationalist authors, a lot of those white emigre Russian nationalists were reburied in Russia during this period of time, he brought their remains from the west and rebirth them and began to sort of canonize them. You also have the unification of the emigre Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia. And that also boosted the level of nationalism. Putin them then comes back to power in 2012. And I think there you have another kind of critical junction because Putin comes back as the so called gatherer of Russian lands. By that I mean, we need to bring back Ukraine. He also comes back with a more nationalistic and xenophobic, more conservative agenda. It’s from sort of 2012 that Russia begins to finance European far right and far left political forces like LePen in France, because this is a way of undermining the EU and NATO. Russia supporting separatist movements Scotland, Catalonia, Brexit, then a revolution happens in Ukraine as a backlash against all of this Russian pressure, because that’s what it was watching is pressurizing the Ukrainian president to turn his back on the EU, which he did. And then there was a popular uprising against that. For Putin this is a second slap in the face, because in 2004, Putin’s 9/11 was the Orange Revolution, which removed his favorite candidate. So in 2014, compared to a decade earlier, is even more angrier, is even more nationalistic. And so he said, I’m going to show you now and I’m going to go into Crimea, and he tries to dismember Ukraine by supporting separatist movements in the eastern South– didn’t really work. But it did work in one part of the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. There’s been an evolution, which I noticed from my academic colleagues working on Russia, that they were a bit like ostriches putting their heads in the sand. Putin sees the war that’s taking place in Ukraine not as a war against Ukraine’s because they are really Russians, right, they just haven’t quite worked it out yet. This is a proxy war against the West.

Dominic Bowen – 28:34
Taras, you’ve written 22 books, including more recently, the source of Russia’s great power politics and Putin’s war against Ukraine, as well as 130 scholarly articles on related topics. So I know you monitor international risk closely. What are the biggest risks that you’re predicting in 2022?

Taras Kuzio – 28:52
The risks are that after Biden, and maybe some other leaders sit down with Putin, and they go through the motions of trying to appease Russia and try to sort of be diplomatic about it, as opposed to saying, Go to hell, we can’t just talk with you about these demands you’re making. But I can already predict now that in the end, nothing will come of it, because I don’t see how any Western country or a NATO or the EU can accept these hyperbolic Russian demands. What will happen then, is the key question. In today’s press conference, Vladimir Putin said that they continued to demand not just talks, but the outcome has to be written security guarantees, the West is not going to give Russia written security guarantees. It’s simply not. Putin has boxed himself into a corner for 2022. So I think that although at the moment, I don’t see this scenario of a full scale invasion, we don’t know down the road, what’s going to happen in 2022. And I think with Putin it is always good to keep our options open. What he’s done in Ukraine is totally irrational from a Russian nationalist point of view because he made most Ukrainians anti Russian. And that’s especially the case with Russian speakers. If you’re a West Ukrainian Ukrainian speaker, you are already quite critical of Russia anyway. But if you’re a Russian speaker, you are not anti-Russian. Today, the people who have suffered the most from the war are Russian speakers because the wars in eastern Ukraine, there are 2 million refugees in Ukraine. Most of the casualties of soldiers are from eastern Ukraine. Ironically, the people that Putin is claiming to come in to protect and defend so called Russian speakers are the ones that are suffering the most from his actions. The question, then, is what does Putin do and that is what we don’t know. But it gives time to the West, he gives time to the Ukrainians because there is pressure on Biden to supply for example, surface to air missiles. Russia’s advantage in any potential war is in the air. I don’t think on the ground as much as in the air. And that could be reduced if there was very conservatoire missiles were brought to Ukraine. We have an open book, as it were for what Putin’s next steps will be once those talks fail. Half of NATO’s members who are former communist countries will demand they fail. The idea that somehow Biden can tell everybody else to follow him, it doesn’t work like that. NATO and the EU, despite what Russia says, every single country, whether you’re Germany or you’re Montenegro, whatever, a small country, you all have a voice. I think it is very dangerous that Russian leaders don’t know how the world works don’t know how the West works. And on the case of Ukraine, I’ve actually joked at various talks, I’ve given that there are more experts on Ukraine, in Washington, or in England, or in Poland, even than there are in the whole of Russia, because they have this stereotypical view of Ukraine as a kind of Russian land with people who are Russians, they don’t really treat it seriously. And therefore they don’t understand the country. And so they’ll continue to make mistakes both with Ukraine and with the West.

Dominic Bowen – 31:57

It’s very interesting, understanding the perspective of all actors involved in events, in a conflict, in business relations, really in any transaction is so important. And your point about how Russia sees their actions as entirely rational, and also how Russia fails to understanding the Ukrainian perspective highlights the need for all of us– our partners, our competitors, and the countries where we’re working and where we are investing.

Taras Kuzio – 32:31

Thank you, it’s been great talking about this. Believe me, we’ll be talking about Putin for many years to come, he’s going to be a thorn in our sides for many years

Dominic Bowen – 32:41

Certainly, but at least we can remove the uncertainty of leadership in Russia, that would be one constant.

Taras Kuzio – 32:47

Unless he dies fighting a Siberian tiger, we just don’t know!

Dominic Bowen 32:52

We’ll watch out for that risk indicator. Well, that was a really insightful discussion with Taras Kuzio, about Russian leadership, risks to Ukraine, and more broadly, to all of Europe. Thanks for listening to today’s conversation and please join us again next week.

Harriet Taylor – 33:09

You’ve been listening to the international risk podcast hosted by Dominic Bowen. Please go to wherever you download your podcasts and give this podcast a five star review. Your positive reviews on this podcast and subscribing to future downloads is critical for our success. If you know someone that has experienced successfully working with risk, has a great story to share and would like to come on the show. Send us an email at contact at the International risk. podcast.com Thank you for listening and join us again next week for your fix of risk related stories.

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